Kichijoji is a lovely suburb, away from the bustle and commerce of central Tokyo. It combines a cool, artsy atmosphere with pretty side streets and a small town feel. It has a vibrant arts and music scene and many lively bars, including tiny standing bars with space for only a handful of punters!
You can get to Kichijoji by taking the Chuo line (Rapid or Local line) out to the west of the city from Shinjuku Station.
I always feel like I have come home when I visit Kichijoji, it has such a friendly and pleasant atmosphere. It’s lovely to meander through quiet residential streets and get a feel for how it might be to live here.
When you reach the station however, you will find yourself in a commercial area with cute cafés and small independent shops as well as most of the larger chains along the main roads.
Kichijoji Station itself is dominated by the Atre department store or departo. The layout is surprisingly confusing considering that it’s alongside the station and I still manage to get lost there! It always seems massive and you can find a lot of high end and designer clothes and homeware shops there. Of course there’s a food hall too where you can get bentos, gorgeous cakes, specialist teas and other fantastic Japanese fare.
While in the station area I often visit the Yuzawaya shop. Yuzawaya is a wonderful sewing and hobby shop which will make crafters and sewing enthusiasts swoon with joy at the range of fabric, craft materials, tools and accessories. It’s situated on floors 8 and 9 of the Kirarina Keio mall which is tucked around the side of the main station. It’s a bit tricky to find it but Google Maps is a wonderful thing and the Yuzawaya logo is prominently displayed on the signage to the mall.
So let’s venture out of the station!
From the North Exit, across the road and the bus station, you will find the Sun Road shopping arcade. It is home to lots of every day shops for clothes, shoes, books and homewares, a pretty good Daiso as well as a couple of other Y100 and Y300 shops like Can*Do. 100 yen shops are famous in Japan so if you haven’t had a good look at one yet then you should as they stock some great homeware items and the quality is really good considering the price.
On this side of the station you must explore the side streets too as you will find many lovely independent shops and cafés.
It is around here that you can buy the famous, and completely delicious, menchi katsu from the Satou Butcher and Steak House. They have a kiosk on the corner selling a lot of hot, freshly prepared street food, katsus and croquettes, and the queue at lunchtime gets very busy. They also sell out quickly so make sure you keep your place in the line!
At the end of the Sun Road arcade is a big Seiyu supermarket (or suupaa – see, anyone can speak Japanese!) I always enjoy a look around here because, unlike a British supermarket, it has many floors and much (much!) more than just groceries. The prices in Tokyo department stores can be a little breath-taking as they tend to only sell high-end and designer goods, so here is a good place to find everyday things at a more normal cost.
Around the corner from Seiyu (or through the store and out the other side), over to the east of these shopping streets and across the main road is a massive Yodabashi store. Yodabashi is an electrical and electronics chain but these days you can find a lot of other types of goods there. This particular store includes concessions for Muji, Uniqlo and GU among others.
If you are not particularly interested in shopping then all you need do is head back to the station and venture out of the South Exit. Cross the main road and walk in a straight line until you come to the beautiful Inokashira Park.
Inokashira Park really is one of my favourite places and it is lovely to come for a restful break, to eat your lunch and enjoy a stroll around the large lake. At the lake there is a pavilion where you can hire a swan pedalo or even a rowing boat if you’re feeling energetic. It’s a lot of fun and we have done it a couple of times even without knowing much Japanese language. You buy your ticket from a machine so no worries there and the staff are friendly and helpful.
There is also a popular shrine in the park which is very nice to visit. The shrine is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess Benzaiten and you can find a peaceful atmosphere here and a welcome opportunity to take in some ancient Japanese culture.
Of course you can get refreshments in the park too. There is normally a lady selling ice-cream at a kiosk (sakura is my favourite flavour) and you can find savoury snacks and other sweets too. There is also a couple of very pretty cafés on the far side of the lake.
As you would expect, there are toilets as well which, although a bit ‘outdoorsy’ (well you are in the park) are usually clean and perfectly usable. But if you’re fussy it’s not a long walk back to the department stores and station which have a plentiful supply of Western-style facilities.
In general, Kichijoji has a pretty cool vibe and is home to a lot of smaller independent and start up businesses. I must give a shout-out to our very good friends at Toy Cats Showcase which is a treasure trove of collectable, rare and specialist retro toys. We always visit and they look after us well.
It is also where HI MOJIMOJI is located. HI MOJIMOJI is a young, modern design and stationery company who make really wonderful, fun and unique items. I’m impressed with their innovative designs and quirky ideas and hope to stock more of their products in future.
There is much more to Kichijoji than I can write here or have even discovered yet. I hope that you will be able to visit some time and find out for yourself!